The Rick Brant and the Ken Holt series are often mentioned in the
same breath as some of the finest writing of the genre. I was mulling
over the two and came up with areas I felt were similar and vice
versa. This is done from memory and is based on my impressions, not
from an exhaustive comparative study of the books.
The Brant books (Brant) featured a mother and father who were not
major elements of the stories. Mrs. Brant smiled, worried and cooked.
Mr. Brant was wise and calm. There were a handful of times when he
had a larger part (Whispering Box and Flaming Mountain spring to
mind) but for the most part he was a one or two dimensional figure.
The Holt books (Holt) had a somewhat more complex arrangement.
Richard Holt was perfunctorily mentioned in each book, but played an
actual role in only a couple of stories. He was always somewhat
unreal to me because he was gone so much. He seemed more like an
uncle than Ken's father. On the other hand Holt had Pop and Mom
Allen. While they clearly played supporting roles, they were still
involved enough and developed sufficiently to attain three
Brant on the other hand had a large cast of supporting players who
saw varying degrees of development and usage. As the most significant
of those I would choose Steve Ames although some might lean toward
Chahda. Others in this category would be all the various scientists
with Hobart Zircon the most prominent, Jerry Webster and Duke
Barrows, Gus at the airport, and Captain Douglas. There were other
characters, including one bad guy and one rogue, that appeared in
more than one book, lending a nice touch and adding to the feeling of
In contrast Holt had very few supporting characters. Steve Granger at
Global News was primarily a voice on the phone. There was a Mexican
police official who appeared in three books, Brentwood Police Chief
Andy Kane had bit parts in several books, and most memorable of all
was Hank popping out of the back room and growling once in a while as
he ran the Linotype at the Advance. I can not recall any other
continuing characters except maybe the Brentwood Fire Chief.
As far as siblings go I would rank Bert Allen and Barby Brant as
about even in terms of their involvement in the stories and
development as individuals.
The Brants were far more likely to take place on water or in an
exotic locale. The Holts had a particular fascination for Mexico and
the American West. Of the eighteen Holts, ten of them took place in
and around Brentwood. I include Skeleton Island in that group because
Brentwood was home base throughout the book. Of the other eight
books, two took place nearby (#4 and #9) leaving only six books that
involved serious travel. Of those six only three were set in a
foreign country. The Mystery of the Shattered Glass is a true oddity
as it took place entirely on board a ship.
On the other hand Rick and Scotty were all over the globe. Only seven
of the 24 Brants occurred in close proximity to Spindrift. Of the
seventeen books that involved significant travel, twelve, (exactly
fifty percent of the entire series) took place in foreign territory,
two were set in Nevada (area 51?) and three were in the Virginia-
I love both series and feel they feature almost equal writing skill
and comparable craftsmanship. That said, I have always sensed a
different "feel" to each series. If I can use colors to describe them
I would say the Holts tend to be black and white, with grays and dark
greens and blues. While the Brants are much more bright red, orange,
yellow, and purple. The Holts are murkier, quieter, doors and floors
are creaky, and figures move about in the shadows. The Brants are far
more rambunctious, direct, and action oriented.
The Holts are much more of a period and though they ran through the
early 60s I will always think of them as being set in the late 40's.
The Brants are less dated in my mind, and seem to be set in the late
60's for the most part. I am not basing that on major cultural issues
like war, drugs, politics, etc. I am thinking instead about daily
life. For instance watching TV is mentioned in the Brants whereas I
don't recall TV ever coming up in the Holts. The buildings, cars,
restaurants, institutions and people of the Holts strike me as being
out of the 40's while the daily life experiences of the Brants seem
more modern and of the 60's.
Of course one big reason for that is the fact that the last six Brant
books came out after the final Holt, Sultan's Scimitar, appeared in
1963. The Deadly Dutchman is a good example. The illustration on page
43 shows a hood with scraggly beard and hair, wearing a leather
jacket and holding a knife at Rick's throat. The bad guys in
Brentwood never looked like that! Also, Gretchen is beyond anything
Ken and Sandy ever ran into.
Again I will point out that these are only my impressions, and are
not intended to represent thorough research and painstaking
May 5, 2000
(Originally appeared on the Rick Brant message board hosted by Jim Ogden)
|Copyright 2000-2012 by Mark Johnson
A Comparison Based on Fond Memories